Not too long ago, we saw Marshawn Lynch post a retirement message in which he literally hung up football shoes. Then Jared Allen posted a video in which he literally rode off into the sunset. Now Vikings 11-year All Pro linebacker Chad Greenway held a retirement press conference in which he thanked numerous people—from his hometown high school to his just about everyone that he ever encountered in the Vikings organization. Pretty boring, huh? Well, without disparaging other players’ methods of announcing their retirement, I would say that apparently, Greenway’s career wasn’t just about himself.
A class act throughout his pro football career (which began and ended with Minnesota), Greenway showed that class once again by thanking everyone who has ever been a part of his life since he began playing the game. The most difficult time of the press conference for Greenway was talking about his family, and particularly his dad, who passed away from cancer two seasons ago.
“Seeing him battle through the cancer for two years and having him watch my career and now I know he’s looking down on me,” Greenway said. “He’s the most amazing in the world, hands down. I’m so proud to carry the name that he gave me and hold it to a high standard. I’m so proud to be his son. It was hard losing him but at the same time it’s fun to be able to carry on his name and his legacy with my own kids.”
But Greenway battled through it—just like he battled through a torn ACL after his first play as a Viking (on the opening kickoff in the teams’ first preseason in his rookie year of 2006) to have a long and fruitful career as a Viking. That he retired in Purple was something that was important to Greenway.
“I wanted to be able to finish my career as a Viking. … That’s how you do it,” Greenway said. “My goal [after my second contract] was to figure out a way to have enough value within this organization, to be able to stay here until I wanted to be done. Not only to finish a Viking, but to go out with another goal of finishing my way. Winning a Super Bowl was the only goal I haven’t accomplished, this today is a goal that I’m accomplishing. This is my final goal that I’ll accomplish in the NFL. Probably the final goal that I’ll achieve as a player was to go out and retire on my own terms. Doing it my way and looking back on a career that I don’t have to live with any regret. I never took a day off. I never took the easy way out. I started from nowhere and was able to achieve the highest standard of our profession.”
In front of a huge phalanx of media and Vikings staff members, plus family and plenty of former Vikings alumni (including Paul Krause, Ben Leber, Jimmy Kleinsasser, Scott Studwell, Bud Grant and Carl Eller), Greenway worked hard to thank everyone from the media relations staff and community relations staff (who have helped him build a tremendous foundation in the local community) to finally the media themselves and all the fans.
“South Dakota fans, Iowa Hawkeye fans and, obviously, the millions of Minnesota Vikings fans: Thank you for everything,” he said. “I’ve been so proud to be your linebacker of the past 11 years.”
Greenway, after an introduction by general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer, took a bit of time to thank everyone who has touched his life, but the presence of the media throng on hand to see him retire is a testament to how many people he has touched throughout his career.
From a media perspective, Greenway was always a go-to-guy in the locker room during the week or following a game. Always accessible with plenty to say, and a person who liked to kiddingly spar with the reporters himself from time-to-time, Greenway helped us do our job well because he always had something relevant to say.
He knew what he was talking about, when it comes to football. I have an annual bet with my cousin on how the Vikings would finish each season, and after getting to know Greenway, I told him of the bet and asked for an annual prediction on how the team would do each season. And Greenway was good at, correctly predicting the Vikings 11-5 season two years ago in Zimmer’s second year, when others, including myself, only saw around nine wins at the outside. Greenway helped me win several six-packs of my favorite beer through the years, but, of course, as only Greenway can do, he said:
“If you win, I get some of that beer.” And he was paid.
As good of a handle as he seemed to have on his own team (I never got to him this past season for a read, and subsequently lost the bet), you would think that there is more football in Greenway’s future, either as a broadcaster or even a prognosticator. But coaching seems right up his ally, even though he is reluctant to say so. I asked him a year ago if he was thinking along those lines for his next career, as he appears to be a natural (knowledgeable, articulate and passionate), and when you hear Zimmer speak about his leadership, you get the sense that Zimmer was thinking about it, even if Greenway wasn’t yet.
Sitting in a small scrum at the new Vikings stadium last offseason, Greenway quickly deflected my suggestion of coaching, almost as if he didn’t want someone else to break any news he hadn’t given yet—to be sure, he was still thinking about playing. Now, at his retirement presser, he was asked again whether or not coaching was in his future. He repeated now as he had a year ago, that the only coaching he was doing was coaching his kids. But today he softened his stance a bit, saying he can see himself coaching, but he is not sure at what level yet. He also spoke of keeping strong ties with the Vikings, certainly through his foundation, but with other members of the organization, as well.
My prediction from three years ago of Greenway becoming a member of Zimmer’s defensive coaching staff still stands. I should have bet him some beer on it.
Regardless of what Greenway does, he already has a decent career in his back pocket. One of the leading tacklers in Vikings history, his legacy is cemented here both on and off the field. When asked about a high point that he recalls from his career, he, interestingly enough, looked back at the 2009 season and the playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys and NFC title game loss to the New Orleans Saints. He didn’t know it then that it would be the pinnacle of his pro football career, but he does now and is able to look back at it with pride. He was proud of his entire career, particular of where he came from and where he ended up:
“I’m so proud of the fact that I played in this organization for 11 years” Greenway continued. “I’m so proud of the fact that I’m from South Dakota, I went to Iowa and played in Minnesota and I’m from this tri-state area. I’m so proud to be a part of this community.”
It will be little surprise to anyone here if we haven’t seen the last Chad Greenway in this community. And we will all be richer for it.